Al Qaeda's arm in Iraq released a video Saturday showing its militants lining up five captured Iraqi security officers and executing them in the street, the latest move in a campaign to intimidate Iraqis and target those who collaborate with U.S.-led forces.
A statement posted on an Islamist Web site along with the video denounced the five men as "American dogs" and warns other Iraqis they would meet the same fate if they join the security forces. In the video, the five men are seen lined up, their hands bound behind their backs, and shot in the back on a street in front of passers-by.
Insurgents have carried out a string of attacks focusing on Iraqi armed forces in the past weeks, aiming to wreck security ahead of crucial Jan. 30 elections.
Guerrillas have proven increasingly adept at managing the Internet as part of their propaganda campaign against the United States and its ally, the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, posting technically proficient footage of attacks on convoys and military bases, as well as executions of members of the Iraqi security forces or government officials.
The U.S. military and the government in Baghdad want the Iraqi police and National Guard to provide security for the election, and mass desertions from those forces could scuttle such plans.
In other developments:
The video and statement — issued by al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — did not say where the executions took place, but separate photos of the event indicated it occurred in insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Dec. 26.
In the footage, one of the prisoners identified himself as Lt. Bashar Latif Jassim and said his mission was to "prevent terrorists from entering Iraq."
When asked by one his captors — who did not appear on camera — who the terrorists are, Jassim said: "Those who sabotage the country."
The five prisoners, wearing civilian clothes, were shown sitting on the ground with five masked gunmen behind them, one reading a statement. A banner emblazoned "al Qaeda in Iraq" hung in the background.
"Here is another bunch of apostates in the land of Iraq, another group of the doomed soldiers who came to the blessed jihad land of Ramadi to support the apostate Allawi government and help the unjust American enemy," said the man reading the statement.
"As usual, jihadists have no mercy when it comes to such infidel souls," he said.
The video then showed the execution. After the men fell to the ground, the gunmen kicked them to see who was still alive, then pumped more bullets into the bodies.
People and cars are visible in the video, passing by during the shooting, and some even stop to watch. One of the masked shooters left a paper, apparently a statement, on the back of one of the bodies.
In a separate written statement posted on the Web Saturday, al-Zarqawi's group also claimed responsibility for a number of attacks targeting security forces around Iraq earlier this week. In one of the bloodiest days in recent months, militants killed some 20 policemen on Tuesday in attacks in various Iraqi provinces.
The group also said it was behind an attack on American post in Samarra the same day. The U.S. military had said three militants were killed in that operation, but al Qaeda claimed that two were only injured. The statement said al Qaeda in Iraq was behind the attacks, which it said were part of a larger operation called "Killing the Mercenary Dogs."
In the southern province of Najaf, security forces captured 11 people who had allegedly crossed illegally crossing into the country from Saudi Arabia, police Lt. Bahaa al-Jazaeri said. The men, three of whom were Saudi citizens, were carrying explosives and advanced telecommunications equipment, he said.
Also on Saturday, at least three roadside bombs exploded near U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces, killing at least one Iraqi, in Baghdad, a day after Prime Minister Ayad Allawi made an unusually strong warning to Iraq's neighbors to crack down on insurgents infiltrating from their territory. Iran and Syria have repeatedly denied claims by Iraqi officials that they are helping militants or allowing them to cross their borders into Iraq.
Meanwhile in Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, gunmen killed the head of the city council, Nawfal Abdul-Hussein al-Shammari, said Abdullah al-Jbouri the governor of Diyala province, of which Baqoubah is the capital.
A separate al-Qaeda statement posted on the Internet Saturday claimed responsibility for the assassination of "one of the tyrants" in Baqouba. No further details were provided, including
when the attack allegedly took place.
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi National Guards patrol south of Mahmoudiya, a town about 25 miles south of Baghdad, killing a guardsman and wounding six others.
In Baghdad's western neighborhood of Adl, police found two beheaded bodies on a main street Saturday, witnesses said. Police said they couldn't identify the victims.